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Ke Zhang, Jiehui Qian; The role of ensemble average differs in working memory for depth and planar information. Journal of Vision 2022;22(6):4. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.22.6.4.
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The representation of individual planar locations and features stored in working memory can be affected by the average representation. However, less is known about how the average representation affects the short-term storage of depth information. To evaluate the possible different roles of the ensemble average in working memory for planar and depth information, we used mathematical models to fit the data collected from one study on working memory for depth and 12 studies on working memory for planar information. The pattern of recalled depth was well captured by models assuming that there was a probability of reporting the average depth instead of the individual depth, compressing the recalled front-back distance of the stimulus ensemble compared to the perceived distance. However, when modeling the recalled planar information, we found that participants tended to report individual nontarget features when the target was not memorized, and the assumption of reporting average information improves the data fitting only in very few studies. These results provide evidence for our hypothesis that average depth information can be used as a substitution for individual depth information stored in working memory, but for planar visual features, the substitution of target with the average works under a constraint that the average of to-be-remembered features is readily accessible.
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